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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Homewreckers: NJ Home Values Under Attack By "Affordable Housing" Court Ruling

Residential real estate values across New Jersey are at risk after an "affordable housing" decision handed down by the New Jersey Supreme Court Tuesday.

Affordable housing advocates applaud the ruling because it paves the way for activists and low-income homeowners (the group theoretically with standing) to challenge any municipality's alleged noncompliance with "its fair share of regional present and prospective need for affordable housing" in any trial level court, which in New Jersey is the Superior Court in each county.

Some municipalities also are happy because the ruling allows towns to demonstrate their compliance prior to and without being declared noncompliant.

Here's the problem: Who's going to be there to argue for the rights of existing homeowners whose property values are at risk?

Any town's housing plan can now be challenged, and soon. This means that judges in each county, and throughout the state, can upset a town's housing plan and by extension the residential real estate market in that town by halting or modifying certain development.

The effect on residential real estate is highly uncertain. But uncertainty is not good for the value of any asset, and here it is not good for real estate, not residential and not commercial. No owner knows what could be developed (or not), right around the corner.

Certain development enhances the value of nearby properties. Other development detracts from it. 

When the courts begin getting involved soon, the danger is that town zoning plans will be decided by judges hearing lawsuits brought by activist groups arguing for more low-income development, and municipalities arguing that they are in compliance with state constitutional guidelines and New Jersey's Fair Housing Act. 

Who's missing? That's right, there is no one to argue for the preservation of the property values of the existing property owners. And that silence, that absence, is likely to mean that property owners whose home values will be at risk will also be without a voice in many or all of those courtrooms. It is likely to mean those concerns will never be heard, and never considered, by any of those judges. 

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